How to Choose the Right Heating and Cooling Certification Class near Birmingham Alabama
Once you have decided on a career as a heating and cooling specialist, the next action is to look for an HVAC technical school near Birmingham AL. But with so many to pick from, how do you pick the ideal one to get the training that you require? Some prospective students will make their selection based solely on the price of tuition or how near the school is to their residence. While these are necessary concerns, they are not the only ones to take into account. A few of the other things that you need to investigate are the graduation rates of the HVAC schools, their reputations, and if they are accredited by professional trade organizations. These and other benchmarks will be addressed in more detail later within this article. But before we examine how to select an HVAC technical school, let's look at what a heating and a/c contractor does to become a licensed professional tradesman.
Becoming an HVAC Tech
HVAC is an acronym that is commonly used in the trade that stands for "Heating, Ventilation and Air Conditioning". HVAC contractors specialize in the installation, maintenance and repair of central air conditioners, furnaces, boilers, water heaters and heating systems. As skilled tradesmen, they are generally mandated to be licensed, although each state and regional municipality has its own criteria. Earning professional certification is not compulsory, but an optional way for Birmingham AL HVAC specialists to prove that they are exceptionally skilled and accomplished in their area of expertise. There are several respected certifications within the field that are available. Below are a few of the significant ones.
- North American Technician Excellence (NATE). NATE is a nationally recognized certification for HVAC technicians. The certification is earned by passing a proficiency examination and may be acquired in one or more specialties.
- HVAC Excellence. This certification offers both a professional and a master specialist credential. 2 years of field experience in addition to passing a comprehensive exam are needed for the professional level certification. Master specialists must have three years of experience as well as a passing score on the professional level examination. Similar to NATE, certifications are provided in various specialties.
- EPA Section 608. This certification is required for techs that work with refrigerants. There are 3 forms of certification obtainable, one for small appliances, and the other two for low and high pressure refrigerants.
Since licensing may be mandated in your area, and you may also wish to obtain certification, it's essential that you select an HVAC vocational school that will train you for both. And since you will more than likely be working with refrigerants, make certain that the school you decide on preps you for passing the EPA Section 608 examinations.
HVAC Degree Classes
There are a variety of options offered for HVAC training in a technical or vocational school. You can attain a certificate, an Associate Degree, or a Bachelor's Degree. Acquiring a certificate will take the least period of time, usually completed in just six months, however some programs are longer. A certificate will train you for the majority of HVAC positions, particularly if you are licensed and have certification relevant to the position. The degree programs may provide a competitive edge in the job market and will deliver more extensive training than the certificate programs. Below is a short summary of each option offered near Birmingham AL.
- Certificate. Generally requiring a high school diploma, certificate programs are preferred among beginning commercial or residential HVAC specialists. They provide a strong foundation of skills for job opportunities within the trade.
- Associate Degree. The Associate Degree in HVAC program provides a more detailed background of heating and a/c systems than the certificate program. Typically taking two years to finish, a number of degrees feature an internship or work-study program.
- Bachelor's Degree. The Bachelor's Degree in HVAC is tailored more for a career in management or even business ownership. Some programs require an Associate Degree, while others are a standard four year program. In addition to mastering how to service and maintain heating and air conditioning systems, you will also study how to design them.
Picking the appropriate credential program will be dependent on what your long term career aspirations are, together with the time and money that you have to invest. One approach is to begin with a certificate or even an Associate Degree program, and after acquiring some experience in the trade in Birmingham AL, later going back to acquire a Bachelor's Degree. If this is your strategy, make sure to ask the HVAC technician school you are considering about how their returning student program works.
HVAC Online Schools
Attending an HVAC school online is one approach to attaining your training and receiving a certificate or degree. Nearly all schools will call for some attendance on campus to take part in hands on training. A number also provide internship or work-study programs in addition to or in place of practical lab work. But since the balance of the classes may be attended online, this option may be a more convenient solution for some Birmingham AL students that are pressed for time. And a number of online degree programs are more economical than other traditional alternatives. Even commuting expenses from Birmingham and study materials can be minimized, helping to make schooling more affordable. And many online programs are fully accredited (more on this later). So if your job or family commitments have left you with little time to attend classes, perhaps an online HVAC degree program will make it more convenient to accommodate school into your busy schedule.
Questions to Ask HVAC Certification Courses
After you have selected the type of certificate or degree that you wish to earn, either online or on campus, you can begin to narrow down your list of schools. As you are probably aware, there are a large number of HVAC technical schools in the Birmingham AL area and all over the USA to pick from. That's why it is very important to have a list of relevant qualifications when making school comparisons. As earlier mentioned in our opening paragraph, location and tuition will undoubtedly be the first two aspects you will consider. Following are some additional ones that you will want to research before enrolling in your school of choice.
Accreditation. Many HVAC technical programs in the Birmingham AL area have received either a regional or a national accreditation. They can receive Institutional Accreditation, which focuses on the school's programs as a whole, or Programmatic Accreditation, which pertains to a specific program, for instance HVAC technology. Make certain that the program is accredited by a U.S. Department of Education recognized accrediting organization, for instance the Accreditation Board for Engineering and Technology. Along with helping guarantee that you receive an excellent education, it may assist in acquiring financial aid or student loans, which are frequently not available for non-accredited programs. Furthermore, a number of states require that the HVAC training course be accredited in order to qualify for licensing.
High Completion Rates. Ask the HVAC schools you are reviewing what their completion rates are. The completion rate is the percentage of students who enroll in and finish the course. A lower completion rate could indicate that students were disappointed with the program and dropped out. It may also signify that the teachers were not qualified to instruct the students. It's also imperative that the schools have high job placement rates. Older and/or more reputable schools may have a broader list of alumni, which can result in more contacts for the school to use for their apprenticeship and job placement programs. A high job placement rate will not only validate that the school has a good reputation within the field, but also that it has the network of Birmingham AL HVAC employers to help graduates obtain apprenticeships or jobs.
Apprenticeship Programs. Most HVAC technical programs are taught together with an apprenticeship or an internship program. Those participating technical and vocational schools will help place you in an apprenticeship program inside their network of HVAC businesses or labor unions. Find out if the schools you are reviewing have referring relationships with local Birmingham AL HVAC professionals. An apprenticeship not only offers a valuable experience by supplying hands-on training, but it also furnishes employment opportunities and helps to build relationships in the area HVAC professional community.
Modern Facilities. Make sure that the campus facilities and the equipment that you will be instructed on are state-of-the-art and what you will be using on the job. If you are presently in an internship or an apprenticeship, check with the HVAC specialist you are working with regarding what you should be expecting. If not, ask a local Birmingham AL HVAC contracting company if they can give you some tips. Additionally keep in mind that unless you are able to relocate, the school must be within commuting distance of your Birmingham AL home. Take note that if you decide to attend an out-of-state school, in addition to relocation costs there might be increased tuition charges compared to in-state residents.
Smaller Classes. It's desirable that you get as much individualized instruction as possible, which can be difficult in larger classes. Ask if you can sit in on a couple of the classes so that you can observe how large they are and witness first hand the interaction between teachers and students. Speak to a few of the students and get their comments regarding class sizes and instruction. Finally, talk to some of the teachers and learn what their level of expertise is and what certifications or degrees they have earned.
Flexible Scheduling. Confirm that the class schedules for the schools you are evaluating are flexible enough to fulfill your needs. If you are only able to go to classes in the evening or on weekends near Birmingham AL, check that the schools you are considering provide those choices. If you can only attend part-time, be sure that the school you select permits part-time enrollment. Also, find out what the protocol is to make-up classes should you miss any because of work, illness or family issues.
Get Your Heating and Cooling Degree and Certification
Choosing the ideal HVAC school course is an important first step toward a gratifying career in the heating and air conditioning industry. As we have covered in this article, you need to pick a Heating and Cooling training program and a certificate or degree program that are both accredited and have outstanding reputations within the HVAC profession. Other features to search for are sufficient hands-on training and state-of-the-art facilities. You should visit each of the schools in person that you are most interested in to explore the campus and speak with both the faculty and current students. Attempt to get a feel for the quality of the teaching and the interaction between them. Additionally, ask about scheduling options and whether or not evening or weekend classes are offered if needed. And don't forget to inquire about financial assistance and student loan options too. If you ask the appropriate questions as we have outlined in our guidelines for assessing schools, you'll be able to narrow down your choices so that you can make an educated decision. With the right training, hard work and dedication, you can eventually become a licensed HVAC professional in Birmingham AL.